Transporting Alpacas

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The methods of transporting alpacas are as varied as the people who own them! Whatever means you use to transport your alpacas, safety and welfare of the animals is of paramount importance. This means open stock trailers, or trucks with open stock crates are unsuitable, as they cannot tolerate the wind chill effect, and may suffer from hypothermia (potentially fatal), or may be able to jump out of the trailer. Covered stock trailers, however, are ideal, as they can be designed specifically for the transport alpaca.

Caution: when loading alpacas into a vehicle or trailer using a loading ramp, the gap between the loading ramp and the floor of the trailer is wide enough for an alpaca leg to slip into – resulting in a broken leg. Such gaps should be covered or have a piece of wood etc slipped into the gap so the alpaca cannot slip through.

Alpaca can be transported in the backs of vans. However, many alpacas have to be physically lifted into the van, which can be difficult – adults are heavy, and not always co-operative! (You will need 3-4 people to lift one alpaca). On the other hand, alpacas who are used to this form of transport often learn to jump into the van, and provided the van floor is not slippery, this makes transport very easy, particularly for people not confident of driving/backing with a trailer.  The disadvantage of travelling your alpaca in a van for long distances, is sooner or later the alpacas will urinate/defecate in the van which is extremely smelly and unpleasant for the drivers and passengers, and metal flooring in van needs to be carefully cleaned after such an event.

We also know of people who transport alpacas in the backs of cars. For the reasons given above, we don’t recommend this, but for a short trip and a placid alpaca, you may get away with this.

We also know of instances where alpacas are transported for short distances in open stock trailers that are covered with a tarpaulin for the duration of the journery. If you choose this method of transport remember: the tarp must cover the top of the trailer to prevent alpacas jumping out, it must also cover the front and sides of the trailer to prevent wind chill, and must be tied very tightly to prevent the tarp from flapping and frightening the alpaca. Again, alpacas often have to be lifted into this kind of trailer, but as they are usually lower to the ground than a van, this may be somewhat easier, but you will still need 3-4 people to accomplish this. The same applies to trucks and utility vehicles (utes) with open stock crates on the back.

Horse trailers are another option. Horse trailers are designed for a much larger animal than an alpaca, and you can often fit 2 small to medium sized alpacas into one horse compartment.  However the barriers that confine horses at front and rear, will not confine alpacas, so you need to find a safe alternative. Alpacas can also jump over a raised ramp, so you should cover the gap between the raised ramp and the roof of the trailer with a tarp or safety net of some type. Warning: Horse trailers have a front section to allow room for the horses heads and necks, and this section has a door to allow owners to easily exit the trailer after leading there horse on board. Some horse trailers have a design fault with this door, where the flexing of the metal body of the trailer allows even locked doors to swing open when the trailer takes a left turn, and then slam shut again as the trailer straightens after the turn – so the driver does not even know it has occurred when they arrive at their destination and the door is still locked shut. We know of one alpaca owner who had an alpaca fall out of their horse trailer – and was subsequently killed, and they didn’t even know it had happened until they finished their journey, and the alpaca was not in the locked trailer! Always ensure such doors are tied shut, and do not depend on locking the door handle to  keep your alpaca safe. The caution above about loading ramps applies to horse trailers – a horses hoof will not fit into this gap, so they are never covered, and you must find some method of doing so before you load/unload your alpaca, or you risk a broken leg!

The best trailer option is a trailer designed for transporting alpacas. When we first got alpacas, these were not available, and we had a trailer custom built to transport our alpacas. Nowadays, alpaca trailers are commercially available for around $3000 more than we paid for our custom trailer.  Second hand alpaca trailers are now also available with some very good bargains available if you are prepared to wait.